Helping You Become a More Successful Gardener
Musk Thistle, Nodding Thistle
Although an impressive plant with ornate leaves and showy red-violet flowers, the nodding thistle remains one of the most widespread weeds in temperate climates. Native to Europe and Asia, it grows as a biennial with deep taproot, but in milder climates grows also as a winter annual.
In its first year of growth, the nodding thistle develops a basal rosette of deeply lobed, spiny, dark green leaves. As the plant ages, often in the second year, the rosette sends up a stem lined with more spiny leaves in an alternating pattern topped with large spiny buds. The musk-scented flowers are a striking, shade of violet-red, although variations of white to pink can also occur. The flowers often nod and appeal to bees and butterflies, among other pollinators. Each blossom yields hundreds of yellow-brown seeds that scatter in the wind. With such aggressive self-sowing, nodding thistle quickly creates a weedy colony that’s painful to weed out.
Well-adapted to any sunny location, nodding thistle prospers in a wide range of soil types as long as they are not soggy. It even withstands high winds and salty sands near the ocean and quickly invades and covers meadows, roadsides and pastures. Animals will not graze on its spiny foliage, so it’s equally unwelcome in pasture .
While rated a noxious weed across most of the United States, Canada and Australia, one benefit of the nodding thistle is that bees love it and it yields high-quality honey.
10 - 1
2 - 10
A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun
3'-6' / 0.9m - 1.8m
1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m
Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer
World/Pandemic, Europe, Asia
Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Clay, Loam, Sand
Pollution, Drought, Salt, Soil Compaction
Drought Tolerant, Average Water
Spring, Summer, Winter
Gold, Sandy Brown
Green, Dark Green
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